Two focus areas were developed by the LSU Department of Geology & Geophysics to enhance existing strengths of the Department and to allow the Department to interface synergistically with other academic units at LSU. The LSU Flagship 2020 agenda indicates that “LSU will carefully identify and concentrate on areas that will give LSU unique distinction”. Within Geology and Geophysics, this goal can be accomplished through these two focus areas:
Evolution of Sedimentary Systems & Earth Materials and Solid Earth Processes
The investigation of Evolution of Sedimentary Systems and Earth Materials and Solid Earth Processes are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary. Many faculty and student research interests may cover all of the focus areas. One of the most fruitful avenues for “groundbreaking research” is likely to be at the interface among these focus areas.
Evolution of Sedimentary Systems
The sedimentary portion of the crust contains a unique record of the evolution of Earth’s oceans, climate, biosphere, atmosphere, and continental lithosphere. Sediments also play an important role in the complex cycling of materials between shallow environments and the deep Earth. In addition, sedimentary basins are repositories of economically-important natural resources, such as fossil fuels, potable waters, and repositories for the disposal of wastes, including CO2.
The Department has a rich tradition in fundamental research in sedimentary geology. This research has included the investigation of surficial and depositional processes, of the stratigraphic record including paleobiology, geomicrobiology, and biogeochemistry, and of the sedimentary environment, including fluids in the Earth’s crust, the physical, chemical, and thermal evolution of sedimentary basins, and controls on the distribution and origin of sediment-hosted economic resources, including fossil fuels and potable water.
Our present strengths provide a unique opportunity for the Department to establish itself as a premier center for the study of sedimentary geology. This will be done by the development of a formal focus area to foster collaborative research within the Department and with others at LSU in the Evolution of Sedimentary Systems. For example, we see the potential for interfacing with faculty in the Center for Computation and Technology as we develop programs in such areas as the numerical modeling of sedimentary basins, subsurface fluid flow, and the evolution of fluvial-deltaic systems and sequence stratigraphic sequences.
The term ‘evolution’ in the name of this focus area is meant to represent the importance of time in studying the physical, chemical, and biological history of the Earth. The term ‘system’ recognizes the fact that physical, chemical, and biological Earth processes are closely interconnected and can only be understood in the context of complex interactions and feedback. The creation of this focal area within the Department will provide the framework for developing such an understanding, for recruiting faculty members, for recruiting excellent Ph.D. graduate students, and for enhancing collaborative programs with other units at LSU.
Earth Materials and Solid Earth Processes
Under the umbrella of Earth Materials, a variety of research topics are covered. This includes projects involving those faculty members interested in mineralogy, petrology and geochemical studies of Earth materials. The processes that form them, and then modify rocks and minerals, are critical to understanding the evolution of the Earth and other planets. This includes the role of fluids in contact metasomatism, isotopic study of the origin of hypersaline fluids in shield and sedimentary rocks and the role of fluids in subduction zone processes and arc magma genesis. The Department has a wide range of expertise in dealing with terrestrial, extraterrestrial and synthetic materials. LSU faculty and students have access to the analytical tools necessary to solve a wide variety of mineralogical, petrologic and geochemical problems. Current student and faculty research in petrology, mineralogy and materials span from the Earth's surface to deep crust, and even to Mars, and from most recent times to the earliest history of the Earth.
Under the heading of Solid Earth Processes, faculty members have interests in local- and global-scale geophysical and tectonic problems. Geophysics and tectonic studies combine field-based data acquisition and simplification of earth processes through understanding physical principles, and by using comprehensive mathematical and experimental methods. Examples of geophysical interests include gravity, flexure, and rheology of the lithosphere as well as fluid flow and deformation on faults and in the crust. Current tectonic interests include investigations of Archean greenstone belts, of the effects of large meteorite impacts, of the temporal and kinematic evolution of orogenic belts and of the tectonometamorphism of high grade metamorphic terranes.